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A Deeper Look Into Atlanta, The New MLS Hotbed

Atlanta, The New MLS Hotbed

Mercedes-Benz Stadium is home to a team that played its part in the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history. The only problem is that the Atlanta Falcons were on the wrong end of that comeback. However, the stadium is also home to the hottest property in MLS, Atlanta United.

It's come as a bit of a surprise to most around the country that Atlanta and its community has taken so well to the new club, although it sure helps that the team is performing incredibly.

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When taking a deeper look into this unique new soccer market, the first thing to note is that Atlanta is one of the largest transplant cities in all of the U.S. This means that it's had an incredible rise in population in recent years and was second in percentage increase between 2016 and 2017, the latter being the year of Atlanta's first MLS match.

It's been shown that cities like this are usually MLS hotspots, or perhaps the next city slated for an MLS expansion team. What unites many of the “Atlanta transplants” is that they previously lacked a defined allegiance with any MLS club, and with the buzz that the local fans create, it isn’t hard to see why Atlanta United has so many fans just with their passion for the team.

When you lack that defined team to support, you are a bit more open to the sports world around you, and if you come across passionate fans every day in your city, it definitely sparks some interest. There isn’t that rigid rivalry existing in soccer in the U.S. just yet.

LAFC and the LA Galaxy are getting close, as well as the Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders, but nothing quite like other professional American sports.

When you look at classic rivalries in MLB, the NBA and NFL, you can clearly pick out the bitter rivalries. If you’re from Boston, it’s a cardinal sin to root for the Yankees, same as with the Celtics and Lakers, or even being an Oakland Raiders fan in Denver. These are things you simply don’t do.

But MLS lacks those types of strong connections to the point where we identify with a team and never change, at least for most.

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Along with this, it’s hard to deny the growth of soccer in the states and its tie to both the 2014 World Cup and the 2015 Women's World Cup, along with the most recent success from the women in this year’s World Cup.

Soccer is the second-fastest growing sport in the U.S., and MLS is certainly riding that wave and reaping the benefits. Nothing brings people together, here and across the globe, like a World Cup. It can form unsuspected friendships and bring people from all backgrounds and all interests together, which is precisely what it has done in Atlanta.

Stats and numbers are great, but…

While statistics can provide some insight into what has helped this unforeseen rise in soccer fandom in Atlanta, ultimately, it’s the fans. It always comes down to the fans and their willingness to accept a new team into their lives.

Don’t forget, Atlanta has four other professional sports teams: the Atlanta Falcons of the NFL, Atlanta Hawks of the NBA, the Atlanta Braves of MLB and the Atlanta Dream of the WNBA. On top of all this, they have college sports. Georgia Tech and the Georgia Bulldogs constantly dominate the fall with college football headlines, yet it seems that Atlanta United has found a space where it can coexist with all these other teams in perfect harmony.

The fact that fans constantly fill Mercedes-Benz Stadium to the brim for a soccer match is impressive. The stadium fits 42,500 when not expanded, but it can fit as many as 71,000 when at full capacity.

Atlanta United has averaged 53,299 people through the gates per game this year, 15,000 more than the next competitor in the Seattle Sounders.

While some MLS teams do a pretty good job of filling up their stadiums, it might be more difficult if they were to expand their capacity to 40 or 50,000 seats and still fill the majority. Atlanta has got great fans and a city fully behind them in their efforts to secure another MLS Cup. By the looks of it, this city and its team is just getting started.

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Support like no other . Much love for the 17s

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Hats off to you, Atlanta.

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